Collin Chandler was all alone on a fast break and, even with all the dazzling moves and shots the Farmington High boys basketball junior guard can pull off, this was the moment when the kids on the bench all stood up.
This was the moment when the cameras started rolling, so to speak.
Chandler ran down the court, got his bearings, jumped up and threw down a two-handed reverse dunk in front of the Woods Cross bench.
“I had never seen him do that in practice,” Phoenix head coach Kasey Walkenhurst said.
Chandler jumped into the prep basketball scene last year averaging 17.9 points per game. That led a 19-8 Farmington team that was a buzzer beater away from playing for a state championship.
His sophomore campaign, plus an active summer on the club basketball circuit, garnered scholarship offers in the summer, first from Dixie State, then Utah, then Stanford. Chandler says he regularly talks to Oregon and BYU as well.
Chandler’s dream is to play college basketball but he didn’t take the offers as license to relax.
“I don’t want to be just a regular college player that goes four years and then goes and has a job,” Chandler said. “I want to be a really good college player, so I’m just working every day to be different than the rest of the kids that get a scholarship and start thinking it’s the end.”
Chandler was already a tough assignment for defenders last year. A year of starting varsity experience and offseason work has predictably made him even harder to go against these days.
He’s up to 22.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 49% from the field this season.
It was 3-point shooting, however, that stuck with Chandler after last year and fueled some personal motivation that goes along with some overall team motivation.
“I had a lot of criticism coming out of last year that I was struggling from the 3-point line, which I kind of was,” Chandler said.
He finished last year as a 34% shooter from 3-point range, but criticism?
“That’s how Bountiful and Woods Cross both guarded me last year, they were forcing me to shoot 3-pointers,” Chandler said.
In the four games against those teams last year, he made zero, zero, zero and zero 3-pointers. The offseason wasn’t about practicing spot-up 3-pointers; Chandler worked on transition 3s, coming off picks and shooting 3s, stepback 3s, etc.
Chandler has also spent a lot of time training with Shaun Green, a career 41% 3-point shooter at the University of Utah (2005-09) who’s now a club basketball coach at Kongo Athletic Club in Kaysville.
It appears to have worked, as he’s made 41% of his 3-point attempts this year. On the first possession of Farmington’s game against the Wildcats this season, Chandler popped out on the left side for a 3 and his defender gave plenty of space.
Chandler went 3 of 9 from deep that night, not his best game, but Farmington won by 29 on the road against the defending Region 5 champions.
A couple days later at home against Bountiful, Chandler found himself on the right wing being loosely guarded just 13 seconds after the opening tip, so he shot a 3.
His second 3-pointer, which was contested? Good. He went 4 of 7 from downtown in the game, 13 of 20 overall, scored 36 points and FHS won by 17.
Motivation for team success comes from an obvious source: last year’s state semifinal against Timpview at the Huntsman Center where the Phoenix lost on a floater at the buzzer that bounced on the rim several times before dropping through.
Playoff ecstasy and heartbreak unfolded simultaneously, just like every state tournament. Timpview’s celebration went from one end of the court to the other, all the way to a few feet from Farmington’s bench where the Phoenix players got to watch, remember and use it to keep the motivational fire burning.
“It was devastating obviously for the kids, devastating for us as coaches because we’re one possession away from playing for a state championship, but I think it helped as a little motivator for some of our guys,” Walkenhurst said.
Another thing the loss did was help the players understand what it takes to win at the highest level, something that’s magnified in an ultra-competitive Region 5. Right now, Farmington is a win away from clinching a share of the Region 5 title.
“Every possession means something. It starts from the start of the game it becomes more apparent at the end of the game,” Chandler said. “Our turnover that we had that led to (Timpview’s) game-winner, I think that there’s a ton of stuff leading up to that. Every possession, every defensive possession, can’t take a break.”
The Phoenix started the year 4-6 with losses to Westlake (6A No. 1 in RPI), Pleasant Grove (6A No. 2), Lehi (5A No. 4) and Timpview (5A No. 1), but has since rounded into form.
FHS is now No. 7 in the 5A RPI standings, with a realistic shot of getting to No. 6 by season’s end. Chandler feels the team’s record is a bit deceiving since Farmington has been so good in Region 5 so far.
“We played so many games in such a short amount of time we didn’t really get a chance to practice a lot. Now that we’ve had a chance to practice, we’re starting to play pretty good basketball, I think,” Walkenhurst said.